Products: Caddy CTS family gets muscle, maybe a coupe

USA TODAY auto team members Sharon Silke Carty James R. Healey, and Chris Woodyard are in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show press preview days. Here, you'll find reports from them and from our wire services on the cars and trucks being unveiled at the show, which opens to the public Jan. 19.

Cadillac CTS-V:The Cadillac CTS, which has been a critical favorite since its debut a year ago, gets a high-powered cousin.

The CTS-V delivers 550 horses from a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. True to its performance image, it will come with either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission.

No word yet on exactly how all this power will translate into asphalt-blistering speed or fuel economy.

To underscore its image, the CTS-V will come with 14-way adjustable Recaro racing seats. The raised hood will underscore the power underneath. And it will come with 19-inch wheels.

The CTS-V was initially introduced in 2004 and became popular enough that other Caddy's got the same treatment. All are capable of zero to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds, General Motors says.

Cadillac also introduced a CTS coupe concept.

Toyota Venza: Toyota says the 2009 Venza "crossover-sedan" combines the benefits of a sports sedan with the space and utility of an SUV.

The Venza will go on sale late this year and is intended to reach consumers who have decided to trade-in their large sport-utility vehicle because of high gasoline prices but still want the extra space and towing abilities.

The vehicle will be built at Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., assembly plant.

Toyota expects to produce about 70,000 Venzas during its first full sales year.

Land Rover LRX concept:Even though its sale is being negotiated, Land Rover on Sunday unveiled a sleek new diesel-electric hybrid concept sport-utility vehicle that could move the storied British brand into a whole new direction.

Land Rover showed off its LRX concept, which Managing Director Phil Popham said will get 50 miles per gallon of gasoline and still have all of Land Rover's off-road capabilities.

Popham said it would take three years for Land Rover to bring a vehicle like the LRX to market because of the technology involved.

The vehicle would be smaller and lighter than Land Rover's LR2 SUV and would be more expensive with a premium exterior and interior, Popham said.

The LRX would be powered by 2-liter turbodiesel and integrated electric rear axle drive, the company said. It could use electric drive alone at lower speeds and retain mechanical drive to all four wheels when needed, the company said.

Popham said Land Rover has to make sure there's demand for the LRX in the 147 countries Land Rover does business in before rolling it out.

Lincoln MKT concept:Parts of its body are made of recycled soft-drink bottles and other waste, but you'd never know it by looking at the sleek new Lincoln MKT concept sport-utility vehicle.

Ford unveiled the futuristic four-seat MKT, complete with seats borrowed from the first-class section of jetliners, a windshield that extends to the back of the roof and an electrically operated hatch instead of a trunk.

Ford calls the vehicle a "premium utility," but it's built on car underpinnings. The company says it will be light and efficient, equipped with the company's new EcoBoost turbocharged V-6 engine that has the power of a V-8 but is more efficient.

While Peter Horbury, Ford's executive director of design for the Americas, stopped short of saying the concept would become a production model, he said: "It's not a fantasy. It's as realistic as any production car."

The MKT is so aerodynamic it has no door handles, just buttons on the trim that open the doors.

Chrysler ecoVoyager concept: This is an environmentally friendly vehicle that pretty much looks the same coming or going. Think of it visually as a cross between a Chrysler minivan and Volkswagen New Beetle.

The four-passenger ecoVoyager is an electric vehicle that has a hydrogen fuel-cell onboard to boost its range on long trips. As a daily commute vehicle, it can go 40 miles on power from its lithium-ion battery. The battery powers electric motors with the equivalent of 268 horsepower.

But because of the "range extender," its hydrogen powerplant, the ecoVoyager is capable of a 300-mile jaunt with no pollution, Chrysler says.

And bulbous exterior? Function as well as form, Chrysler says.

"While the ecoVoyager's supple, flowing one-box shape is purposely designed to achieve aerodynamic efficiencies, it also pushes the Chrysler brand language in a new direction of elegant simplicity," says Greg Howell, its chief exterior designer.

Dodge ZEO concept: As Chrysler tries to portray itself as an automaker that loves electric power, the Dodge ZEO is sure to garner some of the most attention.

The four-passenger, all-electric ZEO is "designed to break the paradigm of what an electric car should look like," says Bill Zheng, its chief exterior designer. Translation: An electric car need not look like a golf cart in a retirement community.

The car's lithium-ion battery is capable of a range of 250 miles between charges. In keeping with its two-plus-two sports car design, ZEO is supposedly capable of zero to 60 performance in less than six seconds, the company says. That's as good as a gas-powered Hemi.

In case you're wondering, ZEO stands for Zero Emissions Operation. But yes, it does sound like the name of a comic book hero.

Suzuki X-HEAD concept: Not exactly the vehicle for the warm and fuzzy. The X-HEAD was designed to look like a Tonka toy, and would feel right at home parked next to an earthmover.

The off-road vehicle, seen at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, has full-time, four-wheel-drive. Yet for all its brutishness, it has only a four-cylinder, 16-valve engine with a dual-clutch manual transmission.

The idea was to combine the off-road capabilities of other Suzuki models like the Grand Vitara with the carrying capacity of a Suzuki van. It can carry drop-in modules, like one for camping that sleeps two or one for a rescue squad.

And when you're done camping and saving lives, there's another for "stylish urban mobility."

It would be a great way to impress a date if you're a Type-A urban bachelor who worshiped Sylvester Stallone in Rambo.

Saturn Flextreme concept: The Chevy Volt, the hit concept car of last year's auto show, gets a companion.

Like the Volt, the Saturn Flextreme Plug-In Concept uses General Motors' E-Flex System, a combination of a lithium-ion battery, electric motors and a conventional engine backup. In this case, the backup is a 1.3 liter turbodiesel.

"The Flextreme concept demonstrates how these design-driven, innovative attributes will be applied in our next generation of vehicles," says Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak. "Unconventional thinking can result in great cars."

Flextreme has a 34-mile range on its electric motors only, enough for most U.S. commuters, GM says. Because of its diesel engine, range is basically unlimited except for fill-ups.

To stretch its range, Flextreme has weight-saving features such as lightweight polycarbonate windows and light alloy wheels. It has an underfloor luggage compartment with an electronic lift.

Honda Pilot prototype:Honda Motor unveiled a prototype of the next-generation Pilot sport-utility vehicle, similar to the production model that will debut this spring.

The eight-passenger vehicle has a redesigned crossover SUV platform and more legroom. Honda says the new version will have the same functionality as the current vehicle, which has medium-duty off-road and all-weather capability.

The Pilot also has fuel-saving cylinder management technology that operates in 6-cylinder mode for power, and 4- and 3-cylinder modes for fuel efficiency.

The current boxy-looking Pilot made its debut in June 2002.

Pickup battle:Ford and Dodge debut redesigned full-size pickups that automakers hope will stimulate pickup sales, which took a dive in 2007 as the housing market crumbled and construction sagged. U.S. pickup sales were down 6%, compared to a 3% drop in vehicle sales industrywide. Consumers bought 2.2 million full-size pickups, down from a peak of 2.5 million in 2004 when the last F-150 was introduced.

Ford F-150 pickup: The stakes couldn't be higher for Ford when its comes to the revised version of its best-selling pickup.

Facing competition from Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra and the Dodge Ram that is also being introduced at the show, F-150 gets a dramatic new chrome grille, a bigger cab, more horsepower, better fuel economy and payload capacity. The SuperCrew version is stretched 6 inches for better rear-seat legroom.

The biggest engine is a 5.4-liter Triton V-8 capable of running on E85 ethanol.

Inside, the console has been lengthened so it can store two laptop computers. And it has more than 30 boxes, holes and cubbies to store, or lose, things.

The new F-150 goes on sale in the fall.

Dodge Ram: One of the most highly anticipated new models, the Ram will be proof of whether Chrysler can stay competitive in the pickup segment. It arrives in showrooms this fall.

The Ram's unveiling was memorable.

Dodge unveiled its Ram with what many expected to be a running of the bulls, but what ended up being more like a meandering of the bulls.

The automaker, known for its flashy and splashy car and truck unveilings, herded about 120 longhorn steer through the streets of Detroit. While Jim Press, vice chairman and president of Chrysler, tried to wow the audience with details of the shiny new truck, many were distracted by the site of amorous bulls cavorting in the background. ?This is one show you?re not going to forget. Now, look at the truck,? Press said, exasperated.

Some of the details Press was trying to point out:

• It has a crew cab, which Chrysler says accounts for half of the pickup market.

• The truck's looks remain aggressive, with a bold new forward-canted grille — conjure a charging bighorn — and touches like dual exhausts styled into the rear bumper.

• A 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 develops 380 horsepower, more than the previous model with 4% better fuel economy. It charges forth from zero to 60 in 7 seconds. A diesel engine and two-mode hybrid are planned in following years. It can carry up to 1,850 pounds and tow up to 9,100 pounds.

• For convenience, there will be lockable storage bins in the bed rails, heated and ventilated front seats and a surround stereo system.

Ford Verve concept:Verve is the concept that will point the way to a wave of stylish small cars that Ford executives have talked about for a couple years.

The goal is to create small vehicles that are so packed with features and so exciting that buyers won't dismiss them as cheap. Witness the success of BMW's Mini.

In Verve, Ford has a four-door that will debut in Europe later this year, then come to the U.S. market in 2010. A two-door hatchback is also being shown.

"The Ford global design team remembered, not so fondly, the econo-boxes of the 1970s and created the Verve concept as a vision of just how good a small car can be," says Ford design chief J Mays.

Verve will be aimed at buyers in their 20s. Other than having a four-cylinder engine, Ford isn't saying much about what's beneath the car's swoopy skin.

Buick Riviera concept:Americans will be able to see the Riviera car, designed in China and first introduced in Shanghai in 2007, for the first time at the show.

The low-slung two-door hybrid was designed by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, a design and engineering joint venture between General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. The hybrid system powering the concept will go into production later this year in Shanghai.

"We said last year the Riviera concept made us realize how small the world was — it's not East; it's not West. It's Buick," says Ed Welburn, vice president, GM Global Design. "The reaction to the car around the globe proved that to be very much the case."

The Riviera revives a name used on a Buick car from 1963 to 1999 that reach 1.1 million in sales in the U.S. before it was retired.

Hummer HX concept: When it comes to rumbling off road, this smaller Hummer could challenge Jeep if it were ever built as a production vehicle.

The HX concept has two removable doors and roof panels. Fender flares can be taken off easily to maneuver through a tight spot along a rocky trail. The beefy vehicle is smaller than a Hummer H3.

The concept has a 3.6-liter V-6 capable of running on E85 fuel, as well as a six-speed transmission. The four-seat HX has full-time four-wheel drive.

Audi TTS: Luxury carmaker Audi is marking 10 years since its TT sports car hit the road with the top-of-the-line TTS model, which makes its debut Sunday at the show.

The TTS, available as a four-seat coupe and two-seat roadster convertible, features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that boasts 272 horsepower and a governor-limited top speed of about 155 mph.

The engine produces nearly as much power as a 3.2-liter, six-cylinder engine, but with better fuel efficiency.

Audi, owned by Germany's Volkswagen, says the TTS is scheduled to be in U.S. dealer showrooms in late November.

Pricing will be released later.

BMW X6:This five-door hatchback is making its American debut in Detroit.

Dubbed a "sports activity coupe," the X6 is designed to be roomy and offer good performance.

The space in back is big enough to store four full golf bags.

The performance is provided by either a 300-horsepower 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine or a 400-horsepower 4.4-liter V-8. All-wheel-drive comes standard.

The V-8 has twin turbos and direct gasoline injection, features that help boost its power.

Toyota A-BAT concept: If Toyota's Prius were ever made into a pickup, this would be it.

The A-BAT, which would be positioned below a Toyota Tacoma pickup if it is eventually built, is given a gas-electric hybrid powerplant and translucent solar panels on the instrument panel.

Though envisioned as a compact pickup, a segment that's fallen out of favor from its heyday among college-age boomers in the 1970s, the A-BAT rides on a car-like unibody platform.

A-BAT is envisioned as "a vehicle capable of maneuvering the suburbs as well as dirt roads," says Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota's California-based design group.

The design was derived from studying the side silhouette of Prius and applying it to a truck. The passenger compartment, seating four, was moved forward, based on the look of a European military transport truck.

The truck was also given fun touches like tailgate lighting for illuminating the four-foot bed, retractable portable navigation unit and a Prius-like info display.

As for the name, A-BAT jokes are sure to include that it will be bought by A-BATman or that it drives like A-BAT out of hell. Officially, it stands for Advance Breakthrough Aero Truck

Mitsubishi Concept-RA: It may look like a sports car but underneath the hood beats the heart of a tractor-trailer truck.

Mitsubishi's Concept-RA has a low-emission, 2.2-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Yes, a diesel. But it's one designed to meet U.S. environmental standards using a newfangled catalytic converter system.

The idea is to deliver big performance with great fuel economy.

To further soup it up, the concept uses the same steering and suspension systems used on Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution.

Mercedes-Benz Vision GLK Freeside concept: One of the most important concept vehicles in the show, the Vision GLK Freeside is a thinly disguised version of the luxury brand's new compact SUV.

The production version will debut later this year.

The concept is given Mercedes' 170-horsepower four-cylinder Bluetec diesel engine with a seven-speed transmission. It's a clean diesel that could go on sale in every state, even those with stricter emission standards, such as California.

The all-wheel-drive vehicle has a "downhill speed regulation" feature that keeps speed steady even when descending a steep hill.

Vision GLK has all of Mercedes' latest creature comforts, such as a rear-seat entertainment center with two screens and a three-zone automatic climate control.

The current GL is Mercedes' seven-passenger unibody SUV. The K stands for kompaktheit, German for compact.

Cadillac Provoq concept: General Motors takes a step closer to its goal of producing a fuel-cell powered vehicle with Cadillac Provoq crossover. It's the first time that GM has lent its premium name to one of its top advanced fuel projects, even though its only a concept car.

Provoq uses a hydrogen fuel cell with its E-Flex propulsion system to be able to travel up to 300 miles between fill-ups without any pollution.

The fifth generation fuel cell is half the size of its predecessor. Yet it's powerful. Provoq is capable of zero to 60 in 8.5 seconds, a 30% improvement over the previous generation, and a top speed of 100 mph, GM says.

Even though its hydrogen powerplant allows vast differences in design over today's cars, GM stylists tried to keep Cadillac's distinctive looks. "It picks up the cues, refinement and attention to detail of the new CTS and takes them to the next level," says interior lead designer Matt Erdey.

Subaru Forester: Subaru's crossover SUV gets a longer wheelbase, more ground clearance and an available navigation system in a complete redesign.

The all-new chassis allows the wheelbase to be stretched 3.6 inches over the previous model for a more comfortable ride, the company says. And it has about another inch of ground clearance.

At 8.9 inches of total clearance, "that's pretty big when you consider this is being built on a car chassis," says spokeswoman Jessica Tullman. Up to five passengers can take advantage of a high seating position, too.

The all-wheel-drive Forester is powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine, same as before. But there will be new features like Start Assist, which keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when starting on a hill using the manual transmission.

On safety, vehicle dynamics control and traction control become standard equipment for the first time.

The new Forester goes on sale in the spring. No price yet.

Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid: Some automakers are starting to boast of dramatic fuel-efficiency increases with gas-electric hybrids.

The two-mode hybrid version of the 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line will deliver a 50% improvement over the conventional six-cylinder version, General Motors says. And it has a driving range of 500 miles.

GM isn't announcing the specific miles-per-gallon figures yet, but it would appear to get at least 24 mpg in the city — it might even do better in stop-and-go driving — and 30 mpg on the highway based on comparisons with the current six-cylinder model.

No compromises on performance: It's designed to go from zero to 60 in 7.3 seconds and tow 3,500 pounds.

GM started offering the compact SUV with a more rudimentary hybrid system based off a four-cylinder engine for the 2007 model year. About 11% of the Vues sold since then have been these so-called "mild hybrids," which deliver 27% better gas mileage than the conventional version. They will still be offered.

Pricing isn't being announced yet for the two-mode, although GM's Mike Morrissey says it will cost more than the mild hybrid, which is about $24,000. It hits showrooms late this year.

Ford Explorer America concept: For a peek into the future of the SUV, look no farther than this concept.

Far from being dead despite the move to crossovers and lots of bad press about gas mileage, SUVs get an eco-friendly update in this version.

Ford says the Explorer America concept has a 275-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 340-horsepower V-6 that will be up to 30% more efficient than today's V-6 Explorer. The engine is 150 pounds lighter, has fuel-saving electric-actuated power steering and a six-speed transmission.

The Explorer seats six. It has wrap-around glass and a sliding rear door, a work table with seats in the tailgate and a compass and fancy navigation unit built into the instrument panel.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1:For muscle car nostalgia, General Motors is rolling out a new supercar with a famous name — the 620-horsepower 2009 Corvette ZR1.

It likely will set a few records. It's the first production Corvette designed to exceed 200 miles per hour. The speedometer will peg at 220 mph.

The latest Corvette, expected to cost $100,000 or more, has a hulking, hand-assembled, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 with a six-speed manual transmission. Like its predecessor, ZR1 makes every attempt to cut its weight to improve performance. It uses carbon fiber in the hood, roof and front fenders. Deliveries begin in late August.

To keep it on the road, the ZR1 will have a suspension designed to hold the car during maneuvering at 1g, the force of gravity, and huge brakes.

The designation, designed to send shivers through enthusiasts, hearkens back the 1990 model of nearly the same name (but with a hyphen) — ZR-1. It was known at the time for having a massive, 375-horsepower aluminum engine built by Mercury Marine, the maker of outboards for boats.

Hyundai Genesis: A $36,000 Hyundai sedan? The luxury-car world may never be the same.

Hyundai, which has applied its value-oriented strategy across all kinds of mainstream models, hopes its first rear-wheel-drive car with an available 4.6-liter V-8 will crash its way into the world of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

"We want people to think of Hyundai as a superb automaker," says spokesman Chris Hosford.

Hyundai is inviting comparisons with the likes of 342-horsepower Lexus GS when it comes to new 368-horsepower engine.

The 2009 sedan, to be followed in the 2010 model year by a hot coupe debuted in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will also have other luxury touches. They include XMNavTraffic, adaptive front lighting, sensors in the bumpers to detect how close the car is to other vehicles or objects, a rear backup camera and the same 16-speaker sound system found on a Rolls Royce Phantom.

Genesis starts at $30,000.